Joplin, Mo. - Coming off a pair of conference wins on the road last weekend over Lindenwood and Lincoln, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team returns to action Wednesday evening when they host the 24th ranked Pittsburg State Gorillas at 5:30 p.m. in Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The Coaches: Maryann Mitts is the winningest coach in Missouri Southern history. Under Mitts' guidance, the Lions have averaged 17 wins during her 11 years at the helm and have finished in the upper echelon of the highly competitive Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association seven of those 11 years. In 16 years as a collegiate head coach, Mitts has amassed an impressive 13 winning seasons. Notable, the Lions have also narrowly missed the NCAA post-season tournament in six of those 11 years. Overall, Mitts has compiled a 185-135 (.578) record in 12 years with the Lions. She holds a 268-191 (.584) mark in 17 years as a collegiate head coach. Mitts currently ranks amongst the Top 50 of all Division II active coaches in all-time victories.
Lane Lord is in his sixth season as head coach of Pittsburg State. Under Lord's tutelage, the Gorillas had their best season in school history in 2011-12 reaching its first NCAA tournament in Lord's tenure and earned their first-ever win in NCAA tournament play in program history. The team set school records for most wins (27), fewest losses (six), highest winning percentage (.818), consecutive wins (14), most points in a game (111 vs. Harris Stowe), rebounds (1,328) and blocked shots (183). Freshman Lizzy Jeronimus became the first Gorilla since 2000 to earn All-America honors and Lisa Elmer earned the Elite 89 Award for having the highest GPA at the championship site.
The Lions last time out (10-3, 4-1 MIAA): Behind career-high scoring performances from Shonte Clay and Nicole Hartzog, the Missouri Southern women's basketball team overcame a slow start to win their fourth consecutive contest last Saturday afternoon defeating the Lincoln University Blue Tigers 67-55. Topping her previous career-high by five points, Clay finished the afternoon with 17 points to go along with eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Nicole Hartzog also had a career-high afternoon for the Lions (10-3, 4-1 MIAA) finishing with 12 points going a perfect 4-of-4 from the field. Following up her season-high performance, Erin Rice finished in double figures with 12 points, while Dominique Mosley nearly missed out on a double-double finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.
Up by two over the Blue Tigers at halftime, the Lions clung to a two-point lead five minutes into the second half, before the Lions' offense got going again ripping off on a 19-6 run over the next seven plus minutes to break their lead open to 15 (59-44). That run featured scoring from eight different Lions, including five straight from Hartzog. The Lions would lead by double digits the rest of the game as Southern secured their fourth conference win of the year, matching their final total from a year ago.
The Gorillas last time out (10-4, 4-2 MIAA): The Pittsburg State women's basketball team nearly overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to No. 15 Central Missouri before falling, 70-67, Saturday (Jan. 12) at the UCM Multipurpose Building. Lizzy Jeronimus led the Gorillas with 16 points. Morgan Westhoff and Kylie Gafford came off the bench to score 11 points apiece. Drew Roberts hit a pair of late 3-pointers to finish with 10 points. Lauren Brown led the Gorillas with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, while tallying five points.
A three-point play by Jeronimus with 8:00 left in the game cut the UCM lead to 51-50. The three-point swing kept the game close the rest of the way. The Jennies were able to maintain the lead, but they were never able to put the Gorillas away as two late 3-point baskets by Roberts and another from Westhoff kept the game close down the stretch.
The Series between the two schools: The Gorillas hold a slim lead in the overall series with Southern 42-39, but the Lions hold a 23-16 advantage at home. The Gorillas swept the season series over the Lions last year defeating Southern in Pittsburg 78-64 on December 30, 2011 and 88-74 in Joplin on February 8, 2012. Senior forward Erin Rice combined to average 17.5 ppg and 9.0 rebounds in the two contests. Southern last defeated Pittsburg State on January 2, 2011 in Joplin when the Lions defeated the Gorillas 60-52.